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A numbers person, Nina Duft took her first position in insurance simply to develop her accounting skills.
After graduating with a bachelor’s degree in economics and finance from Frankfurt University of Applied Sciences and briefly working for the city of Frankfurt’s finance department — where she quickly realized she was better suited to a commercial environment — she saw a job posting for a position at American International Group Inc.
“I thought that to get accounting practice, the industry doesn’t matter too much. Debits and credits will be debits and credits everywhere,” Ms. Duft said.
Since joining AIG’s European operations 15 years ago, she has developed a more intricate appreciation for the insurance sector.
“I hadn’t realized before the incredible value that insurance provides to the whole world,” she said. “There is so much more purpose in insurance being an enabler because it reduces financial uncertainty to a very large extent and frees up funds.” She worked largely in external reporting until 2014, but moved into financial planning and analysis after a manager helped her overcome her lack of confidence.
“I thought that I did not know the business well enough and I was not a strategic thinker, but someone really encouraged me and said, ‘I’m absolutely certain you can do it,’” she said. “That was really helpful to get me over my self-inflicted barriers.”
Taking on more senior roles, including heading up AIG’s finance function across northern Europe, in 2019 she was asked to head a transformation program, which included designing a new operating model for AIG in Europe. The year-long project coincided with the completion of her executive Master of Business Administration degree, she said.
Ms. Duft’s ability to think strategically and lead people has helped her in her career, said Olivia McTavish, Americas FSO insurance tax finance operate leader at Ernst & Young Global Ltd., who worked with her at AIG.
“She was pretty fantastic at thinking outside the box, and she did a marvelous job managing the team,” she said.